Warning: The content of this story is not pleasant reading. We recommend young people view it under the guidance of a parent.
The Oryoku Maru Story prepared by:
- Charles M. Brown, Lt. Cl. AUS Ret.
- Loyd E. Mills, Lt. Col AUS Ret.
- Edward Konik, Maj. AUS Ret.
- Arthur G. Beale, Cdr. USN Ret.
- Edward Fisher, DBC Liaison Officer
Note: The Oryoku Maru Story is taken from a legal summary from the War Crimes Trials and it is this summary that Mr. Brown very aptly renamed The Oryoku Maru Story. It describes the events that occurred to the 1,619* POW's who were loaded aboard the Oryoku Maru in Manila, P.I. on December 13, 1944, through the arrival of approximately 450 survivors, in Moji, Japan on January 29, 1945. (*Please note that due to confusion during boarding that no one has a precise, exact number of POWs.)
Though not included in The Oryoku Maru Story, in Japan the POWs were eventually sent to various work camps where they were used as slave labor. Living conditions, lack of medical attention, lack of an adequate diet, combined with the trauma of the voyage to Japan accounted for the deaths of approximately 161 more men in the weeks following arrival.
In summary, of approximately 1,619 men who boarded the Oryoku Maru, 450 survived the voyage to Japan; of those 450 survivors, 161 died in Japanese work camps. That left only 271 men of the original 1,619 who survived to be liberated in August 1945. It staggers the mind.
In the latter part of October 1944, the American forces began to push back to the Philippines. The air offensives began to make themselves felt by the Japanese. American carrier based planes were making daily raids into the heart of the Japanese strongholds in the Philippines. On or about October 1944, word came through that all able bodied prisoners of war being held in Cabanatuan and Davao Prisoner of War Camps would be transferred to Bilibid prison, Manila for eventual shipment to Japan. This group of prisoners gathered and stayed at Bilibid until 13 December 1944. On that date at 1000 hours a total of 1619 American and Allied Prisoners of War were assembled. This group was divided up into groups of about 500 men each. Of the 1619 about 1100 were officers, a majority being field grade. All of the group were American except 30 who were Allied Nationals. At 1000 hours the entire group marched in a column of fours through the main streets of Manila to Pier #7. Pier #7 was known as the Million Dollar Pier because it is reputed to be the longest in the world. Lieutenant TOSHINO, the Prisoner of War Guard Commander, was standing at the gate checking the number of prisoners as they left the camp. TOSHINO was not seen again until the prisoners arrived at the pier.
The group arrived at the pier at about 1100 hours and waited several hours before they were loaded onto their ship. At 1500 hours a combat laden ship moved out in convoy from the pier and Japanese civilian, some sailors and a group of soldiers to man anti-aircraft guns, total numbering about 1500 person embarked. The prisoners were then loaded aboard.
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